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CHAPTER 7 Historiography of the Jokyu War The Shock of Defeat The defeat of the imperialforces in the Jokyu War of 1221 was shocking. None of the disasters that had befallen Emperors in previous times had the same immediacy, because they all took place within the court. After all, there was a long history of actual disrespect for the person of the Emperor, for example when Emperors were murdered or made to abdicate against their will by the Fujiwara Regents. However, forced abdication had been smoothly incorporated into Heian political practice without raising the question of its effect on sovereignty, or even of the sacrosanct nature of the Emperor's person. The exile of Retired Emperor Go Toba and the other Emperors by the victorious Kamakura Bakufu was therefore not unprecedented. Whatwas shocking,however, was the outright confrontation between ruler and subject, in contrast to the stylized movement of politics in the old Heian court. The utter finality of the outcome was inescapable: the ruler had challenged his subjects and lost. The Japanese imperial throne was fortified with theories that indicated that the ruler could not possibly lose. These were most clearly and succinctly discussed in the thirteenth century by the charismatic monk Nichiren (1222-82), who was a man of great intelligence, excellent perception , and forthright expression. Nichiren held his ownviews on most topics, and characteristically condemned the weakness of other views. With respect to the imperial throne, he seems to have thought that it could be saved by subscribing to his own doctrine of belief in the Notes to Chapter 7 are found on pages 145-46. 78 HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE JOKYU WAR 79 absolute saving power of the Lotus Sutra. As discussed by Tamagake Hiroyuki, Nichiren presented the theory ofthe invincibilityofthe throne under three aspects of his various writings: 1. Shinto. The belief was universal that the imperial line had been founded by the Sun Goddess, who had vowed to protect itforever. Since the vow was eternal, the ignominy of defeat and exile was therefore incomprehensible. 2. Buddhist. It was necessarily true that the ruler was the most virtuous man possible. Only a person who had become qualified in previous lives and possessed 10 specific virtues could come to the throne. Losing the throne wouldbe an impossible violation ofmetaphysical law. 3. Confucian. The ruler-subjectrelationship was absolute, and it was literally inconceivable that the Hojo, lower in status than the Emperor, should have dared to oppose him.1 Thus the three major systems of thought in Japan all affirmed the invincibility of the imperial throne. Yet the intellectuals had to deal with the undeniable fact that the Emperors had been defeated. To solve this riddle was a formidable problem, which required innovation by the historians. Thus the outcome of the Jokyu Warcaused Japanese historical thought to move forward, as seen in the works Myde Shonin Denki (Biography of St. Myoe), Masukagami (The Clear Mirror), and Baishoron (Discourse of the Plums and Pines). Myoe Shonin Denki A rigorous examination of the problem is given in Myde Shonin Denki, a biography of the monk Myoe (1173-1232) of the Kegon sect of Buddhism . It is the most striking piece of political discussion in all of traditional Japanese thought. Myoe lived an independent life in the Togano-o hills near Kyoto, and by his strong dedication to the practice of Buddhist discipline he attracted eminent visitors, among whom was Hojo Yasutoki, who had led the Bakufu forces against Kyoto. According to the anecdotal Myde Shonin Denki, they often held discussions and exchanged poems, and Hojo Yasutoki sought the views of the monk on the deeper matters of life. During one of these conversations after the Jokyu War, Myoe chastised Yasutoki for violating the imperial throne. The use offeree, he says, might bring a temporary victory, but no firm rule can be established: "Since ancient times, there has been none who overpowered the country by force either in Japan or in China, and has been successful in maintaining his rule."2 Myoe then goes on to lay down an argument ofthe absolute sovereignty ofthe Emperors, carrying the concept to its logical extreme: It has never been suggested that everything under the sun should not belong to the sovereign.It naturallyfollows, therefore, that you shouldnot 80 POLITICAL THOUGHT IN JAPANESE HISTORICALWRITING be regretful on the basis of right or wrong when the emperor confiscates your possessions. How could a man conceived in this land and conscious of his obligations resist the command...


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